|Iguala, Birthplace of the Mexican Flag|
On September 26th, my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero was the site of one of the most horrific crimes in recent Mexican history. Forty-three students from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa were abducted by Iguala police and handed over to the local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos. No one has seen the students since, and they are feared killed in a mass incineration. It was later discovered that the Iguala mayor and his wife were involved, and it is believed that the police was acting on the mayor’s orders. The failures of the Mexican government, and the incompetent way it has handled the situation has led the people of Mexico to say they’ve had enough; they are tired of corruption, impunity, and the continued violation of human rights. National protests have been held for the past two months across the country as the Mexican people fight for reform, justice, and change.
Before the tragic events that took place in Iguala on September 26th, hardly anyone in the U.S. had even heard of my hometown. Iguala is a mid-size city surrounded by mountains located between Mexico City and Acapulco. Seventy percent of the people in Guerrero live in poverty. I experienced that poverty first-hand when I lived there. That poverty, and the lack of opportunities, was what drove my father, and later my mother, to leave Iguala and head to the U.S. Then one day I also left Iguala, and at nine years old I found myself running across the U.S.-Mexico border in search of a better life. I made it across the border on my third attempt, and I vowed that I would never forget where I had come from.
|A little girl who will benefit from Reyna's efforts.|
This summer, I returned to Iguala to visit my family. I hadn’t been there in four years, and I was shocked to see that my old neighborhood had gone from bad to worse. More and more people are living in extreme poverty. Shacks have sprouted where there weren’t shacks before. As I watched the children playing in the dirt, I decided I was going to do something special for them. I decided that I would come back in December and make their Christmas unforgettable.
On September 6th, I launched a fundraiser campaign for a Christmas Toy Giveaway. In sixty days I raised over $5,000 dollars with the support of friends and strangers who believed in my project. On December 17th, I will go to Iguala with my son and host a Posada in my old neighborhood, where, in addition to a goody bag, all children will receive toys and every family will receive a special Christmas dinner.
|The Grande Familia in Iguala, December 12, 1979.|
I know this isn’t enough, and in the future I would like to do much more for the people in Iguala. But for now, I think that what I am doing is more important than ever. After what happened in Iguala in September—the disappearance of the students, the numerous mass graves found in the area, the fear and horror that the community has endured—I think that my Christmas Toy Giveaway will provide a little joy to what otherwise has been a bleak and sad time in the city, and in the country as a whole.
I urge you to stand in solidarity with the Mexican people as they fight for a better Mexico. Together, we can all make a difference.
Donate to Reyna's Toy Giveaway by contacting Reyna directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times interviewed Reyna Grande for a story on how the missing 43 has affected L.A. immigrants. Read the article here.
Reyna Grande's Upcoming Toy Giveaway in Iguala, Guerrero